Friday, January 22, 2010

OCD Toolbox: Flipping a Coin

I noticed a gap between my last two posts, ie. how did I get from vetting my food choices endlessly to having a mediocre lunch on Wednesday and going on with my day. As an aside, OCD perfectionism makes it hard to credit myself for any work I've done, as if somehow I was magically transported from point A to point B, in spite of my general wretchedness. But I know that's not what happened.

One of the most helpful strategies, that my ERP Therapist introduced me to, is flipping a coin. This short circuits all the OCD crap about choosing the "just right" item that won't trigger a cascade of obsessing and compulsing. Instead, I make the choice to jump into the fray, and accept whatever randomly comes up, and live with the anxiety it may cause, until it dissipates of its own accord.This is both terrifying and incredibly liberating.

Often, in facing a menu, I'd go back and forth, back and forth between 2 options, so as an exposure I'd say, If it's tails I'm getting the first item, if it's heads I'm getting the second item. I don't usually have a coin on me, so I started using my watch--if the second hand is in the first 30 seconds of the dial it's one, and in the second 30 seconds it's the other. This also works with digital watches--if the last digit is even vs. odd.

This works best with "yes" or "no" questions, or choosing between 2 things, and only if I go into it intentionally as an exposure, fully aware that I might not like what I end up eating, and get a spike of anxiety that I didn't adequately examine my choices.

It helps to remind myself that even with an hour of indecision, and thinking through every possible option, I could still end up with something I don't like, and I've wasted an hour. I have no special fortune telling powers, and no amount of menu perusing is going to guarantee an obsession free meal.

Of course OCD is clever and tries all sorts of ways to insinuate itself--should I use the coin toss? Is this the right time to do the coin toss? I would fight back by flipping a coin to answer that question.

Related Posts:
OCD Toolbox: Listening to Scripts


  1. Thanks for sharing, there are few resources out there that share helpful OCD Facts

  2. I realize this is an old post but this is literally exactly what I do to deal with my OCD. It has, unfortunately become something of a compulsion in itself and I often find myself doing things according to the will of the coin flip over my own volition.

  3. My ERP therapist used to talk about "feared consequences" as a way to focus exposures, so if the coin flip is a compulsion now, what fear is it in response to? What would happen if you didn't flip a coin and went with your "own volition"?